By Danielle Stevens
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant faces a new crisis only two years after the triple meltdown that quickly grew into the second worst nuclear disaster the world has seen. An unstoppable flood of highly radioactive waste water has been pouring into the ruined reactor buildings at a rate of nearly 75 gallons per minute. Workers are struggling to contain the highly contaminated water; they have been pumping the water out of the reactor to keep a critical cooling system from getting damaged.
Workers have been relying on huge grey and silver storage containers in order to contain the wastewater; these containers are sprawled over 42 acres of lawns and parking lots and are able to hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Even these tanks aren’t enough to handle the tons of radioactive water pouring into the plant; the operator of the plant has plans to chop down a small forest in order to make room for the hundreds of more tanks needed to store the water. The task of this has become more urgent as of recent when underground pits that were built to handle the overflow began to spring leaks.
“The water keeps increasing every minute, no matter whether we eat, sleep or work,” said Masayuki Ono, a general manager working with the Tokyo Electric Power Company; Ono acted as a spokesperson for the company. “It feels like we are constantly being chased, but we are doing our best to stay a step in front.”
Though the company has managed to stay ahead of the water so far, the threat of running out of storage space for all of it has remained constant; it’s turned into what Tepco is calling an emergency. The amount of water flooding in has been raising fears of leaks at the seaside plant that could reach out to the Pacific Ocean.
That problem along with more strings of mishaps- which include a power failure that lasted 29 hours, affecting a less vital cooling system- have proven a very serious matter: even after the melt down two years ago, the plant still remains very vulnerable to natural disasters; such as the large scale earthquake and tsunami that had caused the original plant disaster.
Though there is no doubt that the Fukushima plant is safer now than it was during the first few months after the original incident. This is all due to the efforts of very determined workers who had stabilized the melted reactor cores; the cores are now cooler and much less dangerous than they were before. Despite all of the work done to fix up the plant, many experts still warn that the new safety systems and fixes at the plant are makeshift and still prone to accidents that could cause more problems in the future.